A Man

A strange man was staring intently at something on the pavement.

I stopped to see what he was looking at.

He glanced at me, and in his eyes, I saw something that I didn’t care to examine.

Then he lifted his hat, put it back on his head, and walked off, lighting a cigarette.

His footsteps sounded gravelly on the pavement, which was slick with the drizzle that had rained down for the past hour.

The heavens were grey.

The houses huddled together.

A faint haze clouded the world, just so you couldn’t make out what was in the distance, but you couldn’t be entirely sure it was a fog.

‘What were you looking at?.’

The man vanished into the not-fog.

And there was nothing on the pavement.

I hurried along, feeling self conscious, somehow. Why did I stop. I don’t know.

I was expecting to see a dead rabbit, it’s body ripped apart so the insides spilled out and plastered onto the elements.

I was expecting to see a hole leading right down to the other side of the world, assuming the world was round, that is.

I was expecting to see the secrets of life in an open book. Why else would a man be so fascinated?

I don’t know.

Why was the strange man staring at the pavement?

When I got home, my roommate told me that sometimes people have private thoughts which the world has no business trying to get a hold of.

‘You can’t just pick up the phone, Penny, and ask what’s up.’

But you can, that is what phones are for.

I really wanted to know.

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The Next Door Neighbours

They are very odd. We never see them, even when all the lights in their house are on. Their car sits outside all the time, on weekdays and weekends, but they don’t appear to be in.

We often speculated about them, when we first moved in.

‘I think they are Polish,’ my husband said, as we heaved boxes upstairs.

‘Why do you think that?’

He shrugged, ‘everybody is Polish on this street.’

I thought that was a generalisation, and thought about going over there with some fruit tarts to be neighbourly. The oven refused to work, however, setting off a fuse every time I turned it on. So I gave up on that idea for the time being, making a mental note to do so when the oven was sorted out.

Three nights after we moved in we heard them arguing at 1am. So we crept to our windows and peered out. A tall shadow stood by the door of their sedan, while the woman inside, illuminated vaguely by the light in her car, spoke passionately, her hands moving up and down and sideways in emphasis. The shadow stooped and a hand reached into the car, but she slapped it away.

We crept back to our bed, and lay awake for another hour as the muffled arguing outside continued.

Three weeks after we moved in, a few minutes after my husband left for work, I was standing at the sink washing the breakfast dishes when I saw them. Or, rather, I saw him. He was systematically wiping condensation off his car from all sides with an ice scraper, stepping sideways each time he was done with the window. He was glancing around him in an inconspicuous manner, dark eyes darting from side to side. The way he did it was so interesting that I had to stop, turn off the tap, and watch. His hair was greying on the edges and thinning at the temples, a little messy.

Then he glanced straight into my window, through my blinds, and made eye contact with me. I was so startled I dropped the knife I was holding and it clattered loudly on the floor. My kitchen window was open so there was no doubt he heard that.

When he got into his car he turned on his windscreen wipers and his wife came out with a mug in one hand and a messenger bag dangling off the other shoulder. She had a secret smile on her face as she handed the mug to her husband(?) and got into the car. Her hair was thick and brown with grey flicks at the front. Her face was slim and olive coloured, her nose slightly pinched and her chin small and pointy.

The car reversed slowly and I fancied they were both staring at me as the car turned, and drove off.

I went upstairs to change and get ready for work, and when I pulled the bedroom curtains open, their car was there again.

Nobody was inside it, and nobody was around on the drive.

I thought that mighty curious indeed. I am having second thoughts about going over there when the oven is fixed. I don’t know what I might find.

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I thought she was American

I thought she was American,

I really don’t know why.

Her frame was large,

shapely.

Her purple vintage coat,

fell over her knees

in neatly pleated frills,

Vibrant, dazzling.

Her heel was ladylike

Her hair elegantly, gently,

pulled

to the back of her head.

Her smile was wide, flamboyant.

When she opened her mouth,

her Liverpudlian syllables filled every corner of the room,

and a small stone of disappointment

dropped in my chest,

with a muffled plop.

I thought she was American.

How stereotypical am I?

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Oh, hello, stranger.

There is a woman next to me eating a tuna sandwich. Well, I think it is tuna. I can’t be too sure. You never can, with the wide variety of sandwich fillings these days. What happened to good old cheese and tomato? That washes down well with coffee.

This lady is sad, folks. Her face is flushed, and she pulls a tissue out of her coat pocket to wipe her eyes and nose. She also stares vacantly out the window for a while, and her shoulders slump as though the weight of the world is settled on them. She holds herself close to her heart, her knees inwards, her chest bent in on herself, as though she is curling up like a desert leaf to hold herself in and protect herself. Her posture suggests she might be nervous or uncomfortable.

She has a slim notebook in front of her. The cover is black, with green drawings all over it. She is left handed, and writes with her hand bent over her sentences. It is not a way I could envision writing. Her bag is purple, like space, dotted with stars. Her hair is shoulder length and curly, and she wears glasses.

Her eyes are sad, and I want to go and sit next to her and sprinkle some joy upon her day. But I don’t know how to. What would I say?

Hello, I noticed you look sad. Wanna talk about it?

Hi! I’m Lenora. I love your diary.

Oh, hello. Look at these pictures of cute squirrels I found on the internet.

Good afternoon. Do you think you could take a few moments to talk about our Literary Lord and Linguistic saviour John Ronald Reuel Tolkien?

Hi, I really like your hair.

Hello, ….

The possibilities are endless. But none sound remotely right.

Oh. She has put her coat on, and off she goes. Mayhaps she wrote all her sad thoughts in her diary, and now feels relieved to carry on with her day.

Perhaps she wasn’t sad at all, but had hay fever.

I wish I talked to her. I want to know what she has to say.

I don’t know how to talk to strangers though, without seeming like a creep, or uncommonly odd.

Well. Maybe next time.

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